Friday, October 21, 2011

Cherishing every moment

I love Lily. I mean, I love love LOVE her. I love her like crazy. I am in love with my little girl. She is the cutest, sweetest, cuddliest and funniest little munchkin I have ever laid eyes on. I can't stand it sometimes, I love her so much.

I have been trying desperately to hang on to every age. I want to enjoy this time so much that when I am older and I look back on it, I won't miss it or long for it because I enjoyed it enough. Is this even possible? I have often whispered in her little ear, "Please don't grow up too fast!" I just love her.

My favorite time with her is when I am rocking her to sleep at night. I may moan and groan about having to do it sometimes because I am so tired, but once I am in there, I don't want to let her go. I want to squeeze her close to me and I just want to breathe her in as she nurses for relaxation. I love when she brushes her little hands across my face and even when she pokes me in the nose. I love when she looks at me intently and then gives me the biggest hug. I love how she chases my mouth to give me a kiss. I don't usually encourage mouth kissing, but if that's what she wants to give me, I'll take it. Muah!

I love when she is hugging me and she pats my shoulder like, "It's okay, Mom. I am here." I love how if I am having trouble sleeping, I can go cuddle with my little babe and it relaxes me. This is especially helpful when I have received a phone call from one of my doula clients telling me her water broke but labor has not started yet! I love that overwhelming feeling of just LOVE and giddiness when Lily is breastfeeding. I love how it feels to have her in my arms after I have not seen her in several hours. I love how precious she looks when she sleeps. I love how precious she looks when she IS. When she just is.

I love her little language. I love how she asks questions even though I have no idea what she is asking me. I love how smart she is and how much she is taking in. I even love when she gets mad at me and completely tells me off because it shows she feels comfortable telling me that she isn't happy about something. I love how much she teaches me about service and love and I love how much she has shown me how much I love motherhood. My former flute teacher told me this weekend that everything she ever did in her life was just keeping her busy until she could become a mother. Then she finally felt as if she was doing what she was meant to do in her life. I completely agree. She said so eloquently what I was only feeling and unable to express.

Sometimes I can't hug Lily hard enough. I just want to squeeze her! And I can't kiss her hard enough. I now understand the phrase, "I just want to eat her up!"

So I have made it a goal to try to cherish every moment. Have I succeeded at this? Of course not. I am not sure it is realistic to cherish every single moment because sometimes life gets in they way. But I am going to try. I am going to try my very hardest to try to memorize this time, to take it in, to savor it, to hold onto it and to love it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hard few days and a good dose of common sense

The past few days have been extremely difficult for our family. It has been trying my faith more than I think I can bear. I have to remind myself that Heavenly Father won't give us more than we can bear. Sometimes I feel like the burdens that we have are too much for me to handle with a smile. They cloud my ability to see my blessings clearly. I have so many blessings, but it is so hard to feel gratitude in my heart when these burdens seem too heavy for me to carry. I love feeling thankful! I love having gratitude in my heart! Sometimes life just gets really hard.

I started to be very negative about these things that were going on in our family, and that bugs my husband. Sometimes he just needs to set me straight with a good dose of common sense. When I start saying things like, "I have no faith! I don't know if there is a God anymore. I can't do this. I have no testimony! I have doubts," my husband feels compelled to help me get my mind right. I am thankful that he knows how to bring me back down to Earth when the occasion arises.

His common sense approach is so, well, common sense. He asked me, "Do you know that Jesus Christ is your Savior? Yes or no?" Well, yes, I know that. That's an easy one. And you know what? I don't really remember any of the other questions he asked me because that one seemed to sum it up pretty well, don't you think? If I know that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, isn't that pretty much the best thing ever?

He started talking about how Nephi was commanded to build a ship. We started to think about what it must have been like to be asked to build a boat. How in the world are we supposed to be able to do that? I've never built a boat before! Where in the world did Nephi learn how to build a boat? From the Lord.

"And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry they people across these waters." 1 Nephi 17: 8

Being the awesome person that Nephi was, he immediately asked the Lord where he could find the materials to successfully build this boat. If it were me, I would have at least taken a moment to ask, "Huh?"

During his task, the Lord made him a promise: "I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led." 1 Nephi 17:13

The Lord keeps His promises if we keep His commandments. I like the part "ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led." Sometimes I don't know which was is up or down or who is leading whom.

Then Robbie told me that he was sure that things got hard while Nephi was trying to build this boat. Things may have gotten so hard that he didn't think he could handle it, and he probably had to pray for strength along the way. His brothers started to give him a hard time and he became really discouraged, especially since they were all happy that he was discouraged. Jerks.

"And now it came to pass that I, Nephi, was exceedingly sorrowful because of the hardness of their hearts; and now when they saw that I began to be sorrowful they were glad in their hearts, insomuch that they did rejoice over me, saying: We knew that ye could not construct a ship, for we knew that ye were lacking in judgement; wherefore, thou canst not accomplish so great a work." 1 Nephi 17:19

Sigh. Ever feel like people are rejoicing in your failures? I do. Even though no one has actually said it to my face, I worry that people say the exact same thing about what we are trying to do. All we're really trying to do is be grown ups and be independent, but it seems like we are always asking for help from others. I worry that they think, "They should just give up. They shouldn't even be trying. I knew they couldn't make it."

Of course, Robbie said other great things to me to help me remember that, yes, I do have a testimony, and yes I do know that Heavenly Father loves me. Even if I don't want to admit it to myself, this funny thing happens to me when I hear something I know is true. I start to giggle and smile really big. I couldn't hide it if I tried.

I called my mom the day after my good dose of common sense because it seemed like other things happened that were worse than the day before. She gave me a couple of scriptures to read as well. One of those was the awesome reminder that, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13

I really need to remember that. It's so difficult when Robbie and I go back and forth on which one of us is the discouraged one. Sometimes he has bursts of confidence and strength, and every now and then I have bursts of confidence and strength. I think we are both looking for strength from the other one, but it's just not happening. I feel like I withdraw into myself more and more as things keep getting harder and harder. It's hard for me to give any strength to him when I can't even make myself feel better. I'm not sure how he feels, and I am not sure if he is looking for strength from me. I wish I knew how to be strong.

How can I do it? How can I be strong for him when I feel like I have no more strength left to give? I feel like I do not have any smiles in me right now. How can I smile when I really don't feel like I can? What do you do to get through your tough times?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mama musings

Remember those days when I used to blog about whatever was on my mind rather than a specific topic? Me either. Today is one of those days where I have a lot on my mind, and I need to just get it out of my head.

I don't even know where to begin. I suppose I could start back when I was in high school and I was preparing to go to college. I knew as soon as I started high school I wanted to go to LSU, I wanted to be in Tiger Band, and I wanted to major in music. I did not want to be a band director; I wanted to be a performer! I just knew that I wanted to make a career out of playing flute in a symphony orchestra somewhere, and I just knew that money issues would take care of themselves. My father used to fill my head full of nonsense about playing in the New York Philharmonic one day. What kid hasn't heard that from a parent once or twice since the first moment they mustered the first squeaks and toots on his chose instrument? My father did what any supportive parent would do. He enrolled me in lessons with the best teacher he could find. At that time she was the principal flutist with the local symphony orchestra. Another one of my future teachers was also playing in that orchestra, though I couldn't know it at the time.

I spent an entire year working hard and improving. I learned tons. After that year, I moved to another part of the state to live with my mom and her husband at the time. I begged and begged for flute lessons, knowing that I needed them in order to be good enough. Good enough for what? I wasn't sure, but I knew they were important. I begged to no avail. My mother, but more specifically her current a-hole of a husband at the time, did not see the value in continued study. "Isn't that the band director's job?" he would say. Private lesson teachers and band directors alike HATE that mentality.

I used what I learned in my one year of lessons to help me through most of my high school auditions. Finally through a stoke of luck, I attended a summer chamber music camp at LSU the summer before my senior year. While there, I met the flute professor at LSU. She was astounded at my playing ability and equally shocked that I had not taken lessons since middle school. I was on top of the world! She asked about my plans and I said that I wanted to go to LSU. Really, even then, I wanted to go to LSU simply to be in the Tiger Marching Band. I could care less about being in that flute studio. At my private lesson with her, she told me that she was very impressed with me, that she really wanted me in her studio, and that she would pay for private lessons for me. I would take with her doctoral student. Oh neat! What kid wouldn't be super excited about that opportunity?

I ended up taking lessons that year. My mom would drive me 30 minutes away to my lessons and wait in the car. I didn't get to take my lessons every week, but I took several that year. And. I. Learned. Nothing.

She just didn't seem to understand how to teach someone at my level. I was talented, but I was so behind on some of the basics. She seemed fixated on certain concepts that I just was not ready to tackle. How could she not have been able to tell that? Time went on and I practiced like I never practiced before. I worked so diligently towards my audition.

I signed up for auditions at LSU and one just-in-case school. My mom and I drove to the Just-in-case school for my audition. The flute teacher wasn't even there. I auditioned for the band directors, who loved me. I didn't love them back. Then we drove to LSU to audition for my dream school. The flute teacher and director of bands were in attendance. I played the best audition of my life up to that point and I had my sight-reading audition. The director of bands whispered in my ear, "Well, you sound great, but it's really up to her (meaning the flute teacher) whether or not you make the studio." When I was done she commented on the way I had been standing during my audition and asked how my lessons with her student were going. She also asked me if I was auditioning anywhere else. I told her I was and she replied, "Good, because you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket."

My heart sank. I knew that my audition wasn't good enough even before I left the room. I was furious and as soon as I got home I filled out my application to audition at McNeese. Still, I held out hope that by some miracle I would still get in.

That miracle never came. Two long and grueling months later, I received my rejection letter. It was devastating and heart-breaking for me. I cried and cried and stayed bitter for a very long time. I still have my twinges of bitterness from time to time, especially when someone says that LSU is the BEST in the country at something-especially music-related issues.

All of my friends were very shocked that I did not get into LSU and I remember the assistant band director at my high school getting really angry about it. What made me more upset was the fact that my friends who played other instruments, who didn't work nearly as hard as I did, were accepted. I was the only one who didn't get in. My friends who applied to LSU for other degree programs started to shun me. I don't think they did it on purpose, but I had nothing in common with them anymore. I was "the one not going to LSU." From our little town outside of Baton Rouge, that was nearly unheard of.

So I went to McNeese and insisted on majoring in music anyway. My little scheme was that I would study there for a few years, work hard, and audition for LSU again. I never got around to that. I pretty much fell in love with my flute teacher at McNeese and decided to just stay there.

Even at McNeese, I couldn't escape what I like to call my first failure. Those LSU flutists won everything. I entered tons of competitions in vain. If an LSU flutist decided to enter, that was the end of that. I just didn't understand what it was about their playing that was so much better than mine. I had asked the LSU flute teacher why I didn't get in and she told me that I had competed with students that had taken lessons for years and that I just did not have a good enough flute to be really competitive. What? My instrument wasn't good enough? Well, I fixed that as soon as I entered McNeese but I still lost all the time. As much as it hurt to fail, it probably would have been more of a favor if someone would have said, "Kristi, you really don't have what it takes to be a successful flutist. Band director, yes, but performer, no." Because, honestly, I don't have what it takes. I never had what it took.

It's okay that I lack the talent to be a successful flutist. What is not okay is that I wasted four years of my free education paid for by the state of Louisiana on getting a music degree. I regret regret regret that now. I should have used four years of my free education to get a degree in something that I could get a decent job and pay bills later in my life. Now that I am an aspiring doula, which I wish I would have known back then, I probably should have studied to become a midwife. Funny how life works though. Back in college I had no interest in birth and babies. None at all. I didn't care for babies. They annoyed me. In fact, I just didn't see how I would ever become a mother one day. I was also convinced that if I did become a mother, I would hate every minute of it. Sometimes I would secretly wish that maybe I wouldn't be able to have children. Then I would try to squash that thought quickly because isn't that just plain evil? Especially as a Latter-day Saint woman? A part of me also knew that I would regret thinking that if it actually came true.

So I wasted my time thinking that I had this great love for the flute and that I could still be successful somehow even though all the evidence showed that no, I could not be successful. Losing auditions and competitions all the time does not really equate to being a successful flutist.

I persisted. I auditioned for graduate schools and did not make any of the "good ones." I started at one school and finished at another. I took out huge student loans. And this is a major regret. I should have never gone to a school if I had to pay for it. Yes, I have a Master of Music degree. Whoop-de-doo. I also have massive debt that I get to pay off instead of paying for something like, um, a house. Why didn't someone, anyone, tell me, "Hey Kristi! What are you truly planning to do to pay the bills?" I teach private flute lessons and I play in a semi-professional orchestra a few times a year.

My family comes first, and I have tried to help supplement our family's income while most being a stay at home mom to my little girl. We have decided that's how we want our family to be run. I will say that it is very difficult to run a family on mostly a single income. We have to make tons of sacrifices in order for us to have this type of lifestyle, and we have decided that we would rather sacrifice nice cars, clothes, homes and other nice things rather than sacrificing time spent with our children.

Seems like our biggest struggle is money. Neither of us came from families with money. We both came from families that struggled to make ends meet, and now we are in the same situation. However, Robbie has told me that he never really knew how much his parents struggled with money. I did know. I don't know how many times I heard, "We can't afford it. We don't have the money." I got to the point where I just didn't ask for anything anymore and I survived without plenty of those things I thought I had to have.

I asked my mom why she didn't set me straight when I insisted on majoring in music. She told me she did not want to squash my dreams. Sigh. I suppose that was sweet of her, but here we are, ten years later, and my decision to major in music is my biggest regret in life. It was a stupid decision, and one for which my entire family and I will pay for the rest of my life. It is a decision that will cause me to feel that little twinge of jealousy every time I see someone talk about their vacation to Hawaii, or their mani-pedi or their hair appointment they made just because they were feeling stressed, or their appointment with a massage therapist, or their nice new car and house, or all the little things they get to buy in preparation for their baby, or their ability to just drop $200 on a whole bunch of Fuzzi Bunz without even thinking twice about it or to be able to go to lunch with a friend at the spur of the moment and not have to wonder if that $5 sandwich is actually going to cost $37 in overdraft fees, or who can go anywhere at any time without worrying how much it will cost in gas to get there and if that will leave enough in the tank to go teach flute lessons the next day.

I know there are probably some out there who would really want to put things in perspective for me. Yes, I understand things could be worse. They can always be worse. Honestly, I wouldn't be bothered so much if I wasn't surrounded by people with a whole bunch of nice STUFF! Those things I mentioned up there? I see that every day! We go to church and are friends with people who live in a pretty affluent part of town, and it is impossible for us to keep up. It is not only impossible, but it is pretty embarrassing to my poor husband. Because he is the provider, this effects him in ways that I could never understand. I suppose it doesn't help any when I feel sad about it. I try not to complain, but I do get pretty down in the dumps about it. For example, I am the primary secretary for our ward. On occasion we have Presidency meetings. When we get together, we talk about the needs of the children. At one particular meeting, we were planning an event in which it was decided we all needed to bake four dozen cookies. I nearly cried. First, I do not have one of those fancy $200 mixers that make baking four dozen cookies a breeze and second, I do not have the money for the ingredients to make four dozen cookies. It didn't even cross my mind to buy some Chips Ahoy cookies or something because of the company I was in. THOSE ladies have probably never even heard of Chips Ahoy cookies. I had to decline helping with that assignment because of money. How silly! At the time it really got me down. All I wanted was to fit in and to be helpful, and I couldn't do it. It is hard for me to come home and explain to my husband these things because it depresses him. So I suppose I should just suck it up and never complain about money.

Oh only those wonderful and perfect women can do that, of which I am NOT one. Nope. I am not, nor have I EVER been perfect. So I need to vent, complain, share my feelings, blow of steam, etc. It seems like it is pretty evident anyway so why not shout it from the roof tops? We do not have enough money! We have to accept financial help from our parents and other sources, which is pretty embarrassing to two  almost 30 year olds.

So then, I think about Heavenly Father. He is the one who is actually providing the help to us, although He uses other people to carry it out. He is the one on whom we are relying and on whom we need to rely. He is the only one whose opinion and judgements matter. And then all that other stuff that I just wrote about seems to disappear. It melts away. And I think of Lily. Robbie and I? Well, we're just her heroes! We're the best things that have even happened to her and she just loves us to pieces just like we love her to pieces. She doesn't care that I can't make four dozen cookies and neither does Heavenly Father. What she does care about is that her mommy is here for her when she needs her. She cares about her daddy's hugs and kisses and rocking to sleep at night. She cares about being warm and safe and loved to bits by her two silly parents.

Isn't funny how there are so many thoughts that really have nothing to do with each other but that my brain can force them to have something to do with each other? We have a very modest income and as such, we have a very modest home and we do not have tons of stuff. Somehow my brain can say, "Well, that's because you didn't make it to LSU!" or "That's because you majored in music," or "You should have gotten a USEFUL degree!" Sigh. Oh brain!

Sometimes I think about how I wish things would have gone. So what would have happened if I made LSU? What then? What about if I would have majored in something else. What then? I have to ask myself, "Would I still be married to Robbie and would I still have Lily?" Then I think, "If I am not still married to Robbie and if I don't have Lily, then I wouldn't change anything. If I have to experience all those things in that particular order in order to be married to Robbie and have Lily, then I am just going to leave it alone." I wouldn't want to change anything if it meant that I didn't have Robbie and Lily anymore. I sure to love my Robbie and my Lily.